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STRONG ACTIONS TAKEN AS ALARMING NEW FINDINGS ABOUT
CORAL REEFS ARE RELEASED

Coral reef in the Red SeaDecember 11, 2000 — Citing alarming new findings about the world's coral reefs, Commerce Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today announced decisive new actions to counter the crisis, and urged the nation to continue to protect the world's vital ocean resources. Referring to the latest findings of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network Mineta said, "We can no longer take our coral reefs for granted. We cannot continue to count on coral reefs to support billion dollar economies based on recreation and tourism while at the same time permitting unprecedented degradation of our reefs." (Click image for larger view.)

The findings are reported in Status of Coral Reefs of the World 2000, a new report by Dr. Clive Wilkinson, Global Coordinator of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Data from scientists around the globe indicate that, by 1992, 10 percent of the world's coral reefs had been lost. The new report estimates that today 27 percent are gone. If current trends continue, 60 percent of the world's coral reefs may be lost by 2030.

To address the accelerating coral reef crisis, Mineta announced four, major initiatives:

  • Establishment of the first internationally recognized "no anchoring" zones for large ships.
  • Release of the final plan to establish the Tortugas Ecological Reserve to protect valuable coral reefs at the southern tip of the Florida Keys.
  • A U. S. - Australia agreement to jointly study coral reef bleaching and the effects of climate change on coral reefs.
  • A major undertaking by the agencies of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and broad-based partnerships to map 10 percent of U.S. reefs.

As a member of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, NOAA works closely with the Department of Interior, nine other federal agencies, and the governors of seven states and territories.

David Hayes, Deputy Interior Secretary highlighted other major accomplishments of the Task Force, and supported international efforts to protect valuable reef resources. "Despite a number of significant achievements, it's very clear that much more remains to be done to protect these precious resources," Hayes said. "Coral reefs around the world face enormous threats, and it will be our challenge to provide direction internationally through cooperation and education, and to set new standards of leadership in reef conservation and sustainable practices."

Initiatives Announced by Commerce Secretary Mineta on December 11, 2000

Establishment of the first internationally recognized "no anchoring" zones for large ships, with the first one in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. Last week, the International Maritime Organization, the world's governing body for international shipping, approved a U.S. proposal allowing nations to establish "no anchoring" areas for sensitive habitats. With strong support from the shipping industry, these areas will be marked on all international navigational charts. The new provision will help prevent damage from large ship anchors and chains that, in seconds, can crush thousands of years of coral reef growth.

Release of the final plan to establish the Tortugas Ecological Reserve to protect valuable coral reefs at the southern tip of the Florida Keys. Protecting the sustained health of the entire Florida Keys' coral reef system, this community-led plan is a historic milestone for the local fishers, divers, scientists, fishery management councils, and state and federal agencies that worked for two years to design it.

A U. S. - Australia agreement to jointly study coral reef bleaching and the effects of climate change on coral reefs. Scientists have never seen anything like the bleaching that began occurring in 1997 when, during unprecedented warming of tropical ocean waters, coral reefs throughout the world began turning white from severe stress. This critical and timely new collaboration will help build understanding of the causes and consequences and possible solutions to global threats to coral reefs.

A major undertaking by the agencies of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and broad-based partnerships to map 10 percent of the U.S. reefs. Since most U.S. coral reefs have never been adequately mapped, the Task Force has begun developing comprehensive and consistent coral reef ecosystem maps. Now underway as part of a 10-year plan, the maps will provide important support for more effective fishery and coastal zone management, disaster mitigation, and research and restoration efforts.

Developed by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, the nation's first action plan to save coral reefs has become a powerful roadmap for addressing the most pressing threats. "We are working to do the right thing for these fragile ecosystems," said David Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department.

Relevant Web Sites
"Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2000" Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network — (Report in pdf format. You'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this file.)

NOAA's Coral Reef


U.S. CORAL REEF TASK FORCE UNVEILS GROUNDBREAKING PLAN

Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network


NOAA's Coral Kingdom — coral reef photos

U.S. Coral Reef Task Force


Media Contact:
Madelyn Appelbaum, NOAA, (202) 482-4858